How to stalk your competitors' negative reviews for new customers
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How to stalk your competitors’ negative reviews for new customers


Stalking your competitors’ reviews can be an extremely effective technique for getting new customers. That said, it’s a strategy that’s more art than science, and must be done very carefully.Responding directly to negative feedback left for your competitors is generally a very bad idea. It can make you look like a jerk, and will more than likely make your competitors pretty unhappy. So, how can you leverage your competitors’ negative reviews to generate leads?This post will come at the issue from two different angles:

  1. How to find your competitors’ negative online reviews, and

  2. How to act on those reviews in a way that doesn’t damage your reputation.


6 ways to find your competitors’ negative reviews

Following are some of the most effective ways to stay on top of negative comments and reviews left for your competitors.

1. Monitor your competitors’ blog comments

Scouring through blog comments will often yield a number of negative comments or unanswered questions from customers. It will also give you some insight into how your competitors typically respond or react to negative feedback.Don’t respond directly to negative comments left on your competitors’ blog! I’ll cover some much more effective ways to utilize these comments at the end of this post.

2. Use Google Alerts to stay on top of brand mentions

Google Alerts remains the industry standard tool for monitoring online mentions. Set up alerts for mentions of your competitors’ brand name, product names and the owner’s full name.This will immediately alert you to mentions – both good and bad – across the web. This will include blogs, news articles, and other web pages.

While you can try setting up alerts for keywords that might indicate negative reviews (e.g., unhappy, complaint, negative), more than likely you’ll have to manually search for all the comments and mentions.

3. Use social listening tools to monitor negative mentions on social media

One of the best ways to stay on top of negative mentions of your competitors is to use a social listening tool like Brand24 or Hootsuite.More than ever before, consumers expect brands to respond to questions and feedback on social media. Brands that do respond appropriately can see some huge benefits. According to some research, customers who were contacted after leaving a negative review were 33% more likely to turn around and leave a positive review, and 18% were more likely to become a loyal customer.If your competitors aren’t responding – or aren’t responding well –  to customer complaints, they’re sacrificing these benefits. And you can use this to your advantage.

4. Monitor local review sites using ReviewFlow

According to BrightLocal, when consumers are looking for reviews of a business they typically go to one of two places: either to a search engine or directly to the review site.If your competitors aren’t responding to negative feedback left on review hubs like Yelp, Google My Business and Angie’s List, they’re losing the opportunity to manage their reputation where it counts most.

Using a tool like ReviewFlow,  you can actively monitor all the big review sites for mentions of your competitors’ names. While you won’t directly respond to those reviews, you will use what you’ve learned in some other strategic ways (more on this below).

5. Follow your competitors on social media

While a tool like Hootsuite will alert you to many mentions of your competitors on social media, it won’t show comments that don’t explicitly use your competitors’ name. This is where following your competitors and actively monitoring their social media activity is so important.This is particularly important on Facebook, where Visitors Posts won’t show up on social listening tools unless visitors actually mention or tag the business name.

6. Regularly monitor their Amazon reviews

If your competitors use Amazon to sell their products, this can be a great place to watch for negative reviews. While you won’t be able to respond to comments left on your competitors’  product pages, you can use what you’ve learned to improve your own products and customer service.

Note: While it may be possible to track down a reviewer’s email address through their Amazon profile, emailing a user for something other than servicing their order can get your account shut down.

How to use negative reviews to get new customers

I’ve already hinted at some of the ways you can use what you’ve found, however, I’ll cover each of these strategies in more detail below.

Respond directly to dissatisfied customers

As already mentioned, this is something you should do with extreme caution. Responding to questions and negative comments on your competitors’ social media feed or website is generally a pretty terrible idea, so should be reserved for one specific circumstance: if your competitor has abandoned (or virtually abandoned) their website or social media account. Even in this situation, avoid criticizing your competitor, and move the conversation offline asap.

Improve your own products and customer service

Monitoring your competitors’ negative reviews can help you avoid facing the same fate. Use what you’ve learned to improve your products, services, and social customer service skills.Here are a few ways to fix bad reviews.

Reach out to reviewers outside of your competitors’ website or social media feed

If you’ve seen a negative review on a competitor’s website or social media account, go ahead and reach out to the reviewer outside of that channel.  Here’s how to connect with them.If you’ve found a blog comment: Click on the commenter’s name. This will often lead you directly to their blog or social media profile. Engage with them on their blog or follow and connect with them via their social media accounts.If you’ve found a comment on your competitors’ social media feed: Follow them on social media and reach out to them with helpful advice of information (e.g., “We heard you’ve been looking for a reliable web designer. We’d like to offer you this coupon for 20% off!”.)

Build up your presence on social media sites where your competitors are failing

This is another indirect way you can reach new customers by succeeding where your competitors are failing. If you notice a competitor regularly receiving negative feedback on Facebook, for instance, boost your efforts on that platform. All those dissatisfied customers are sure to be looking for alternatives…and why shouldn’t it be you?

A final thought

Regardless of how or where you engage with your competitors’ unhappy customers, always try to avoid criticizing the competition. Instead, focus on being empathic (“I’m sorry you had such a bad experience”), and on providing useful information or advice.Looking for more advice on stalking the competition? You may enjoy my post How To Use Social Media To Ethically ‘Stalk’ Competitors And Job Candidates.

John Rampton is serial entrepreneur who now focuses on helping people to build amazing products and services that scale. He is founder of the online payments company Due. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. Time Magazine recognized John as a motivational speaker that helps people find a “Sense of Meaning” in their lives. He currently advises several companies in the bay area. 


March 7, 2017
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